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Joseph M. Casto
Joseph M. Casto
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Current Graduate Students:

MS student Cody Scholtens received his BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Illinois State University. His thesis research involves monitoring burst firing of dopamine neurons in the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of anesthetized European starlings during playback of species-specific social vocalizations. Cody's research should reveal whether different classes of social vocalizations elicit unique spatial and temporal patterns of phasic dopamine signaling in the brai, and will set the stage for future investigations of endocrine modulation of response to social signals.

Current Research Assistants:

Colleen Quinn worked for multiple summers and multiple semesters on the lab's filed research studying the developmental effects of ectoparasitism in European starlings.

Katana Colledge is a high school student who has assisted for the last two years with the lab's real-time monoitoring of dopamine signaling in songbirds.

Elliot Lusk assists with field and lab research studying ectoparasitism in European starlings.

Jocelyn McDonald assists with field and lab research studying ectoparasitism in European starlings.

Lab Alumni:

Aderinsola Odetunde MS is currently enrolled in medical school. Her thesis research investigated the role of blood-feeding ectoparasites in the nests of European starlings as developmenal stressors that drive developmental trade-offs between growth and immune function.

Amanda Smith MS established the technique of in vivo fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) for monitoring burst firing of catecholamine neurons in the songbird brain (Smith et al., 2015). She also used pharmacology studies to identify the specific catecholamines that are monitored via FSCV and monitored burst firing of dopamine neurons in response to playback of vocal communication signals in urethane-anesthetized starlings.

Jason Hanser MS is currently a researcher and data analyst at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is working on publishing his MS thesis research in which he investigated the causes and effects of hatching assynchrony in European starlings.

Leah Pryor MS conducted the lab's first research projects on blood-feeding ectoparasites as developmental stressors in developing songbirds. Among her findings were that in comparison to nestlings from less parasitized nests, nestlings from highly parasitized nests upregulated immunity and down regulate growth during early nestling development and vice versa during late nestling development (Pryor and Casto, 2015).

Leah is currently a Program Supervisor for the Park District of Oak Park, and since receiving her MS degree has also worked in the Chicago area as a Public Programs Development Specialist at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, a Natural Areas Instructor for the Downers Grove Park District, and a Naturalist for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.


Agnieszka Stadnik MS studied the neuroprotective effects of hypothermia on behavioral and neural recovery from occlusive stoke. She is now a Certified Clinical Research Professional and Senior Project Manager at the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Sírinun Pongmayteegul PhD examined the effects of ischemia-induced dopamine efflux on neurodegenration in a rat model of occlusive stroke. She now works at Srikakarin Wiroj University in Bangcock, Thailand.

Donald Osterling MS investigated the ability of the free-radical scavenger Tempol to protect brain tissue from ischemia in response to focal cerebral ischemia in a rat model of occlusive stroke. He worked at Abbott Laboratories for several years and now conducts pharamacology research at AbbVie Inc. in Chicago.

Michael Dawson worked for multiple summers and multiple semesters on the lab's filed research studying the developmental effects of ectoparasitism in European starlings.

Michelle Alvarez BS assisted with field research invertigating the influence of steroid hormones in egg yolk on hatching synchrony of songbird eggs.

Brenna Knott visiting graduate student, received her BS from Missouri Western University.

Kareem Levestone assisted in histological analysis of avian brain tissue.

Sara Kluk BS assisted in both field and lab research monitoring egg incubation patterns in European starlings and conducting histological analysis of avian brain tissue.

Dan De Biasio BS assisted with field research studying metabolism of steroids in the yolk of avian eggs and developmental stress in developing birds. Dnn also helped establish immune assay techniques in the laboratory.

Tanner Kowolski BS assisted with field research investigating ectoparasites as developmental stressors in songbirds.

Meagan Reitz BS assisted with field research investigating ectoparasites as developmental stressors in songbirds.

Erica Simmons BS  assisted with behavioral assessment to determine functional impairment resulting from temporary occlusion of the middle cerebral artery of rats.

Omoni Ekhomu BS  assisted with a study of behavioral deficits associated with experimental stroke in rats.

Steve Jensen BS  assisted with a study of behavioral deficits associated with experimental stroke in rats.

Heather Hall BS  assisted with a study of behavioral deficits associated with experimental stroke in rats.